These are my last days in Skive Denmark after living here for four months. It has been an experience where for the second time in my life I pack a few things and relocate to a new place to live for an extended period of time.
This time around it was very different. My Heiða has been studying and I was more in a supporting role while working remotely with people in USA and Iceland. This means that I have very limited interactions with people. I interact with my family and friends through screens. Most of the time I sit alone in our cabin and wait for Heiða and Uni to come back from daycare and school.
I am a social person, thrive on communications and a sense of community. So this has perhaps been one of the hardest challenges for me during this time.
Let's get to the point though. To keep my sanity, I cycle. It's the best thing in the world. You get exposure to daylight, exercise, nature (fantastic forests around Skive) but also people. Today I realized that the closest connections I've made here are through cycling and local merchants.
Last Friday I said goodby to my butcher. I'm eating less meat but when I buy it, I want it to be as local and free-range as possible. The stuff you find in the supermarkets is usually not that. I didn't connect with the local butcher on the main street or the other one in the suburb of Skive. But on one of my extended morning rides, I stumbled upon the butcher in Højslev. The moment I walked through the door, I knew I had found my butcher. Beautiful arrangements, all sorts of cured and dried meat, dry-aging cabinet, local beers and spices, and awards for excellence in a well-organized small white-tiled merchant space. Even the smell was right.
We immediately connected on a topic around how most people in Denmark are still obsessed with buying lean meat while it is common knowledge that the flavor comes from the fat, it's not all bad either if it's the good type of fat from grass-fed cattle. I made my purchase and the quality was fantastic. Best service I had received despite my broken Danish and switching over to English quite soon in our dialog.
The next time I visited, I even got a free sample from a buck loin that the butcher had caught on a local hunt earlier that week. He just had to share it with me. It was like a Christmas feast in the middle of the week.
So last Friday I went back for the last time, I believe we had a moment where I said farewell and felt a bit sad when we realized that I would most likely never be back.
I go on rides most days and I brought a second-hand bike, an impulse Covid purchase that is a bit strange with odd components. My friend helped me assemble it before I left for Denmark but there were a few things that needed replacing or tuning. So on my first rides, I checked out the three local bike shops and picked the one where I got the warmest first impression. Fri Bike Skive is a part of a chain but has the two nicest mechanics I have met. On par with my friends at Kria Cycles in Iceland. A nice guy lent me a pump and we discussed how cyclists in Denmark have not really caught on to gravel riding yet. Despite the fantastic conditions in the Jylland countryside. It's either road or MTB on a select few (flat) trails. I started dropping in more frequently, needed patches when a thorn blew my son's tube and a few bits and bobs. When I scheduled a ride with my friend in Sweden I asked my guy to tune up the bike as the chain jumped a bit on the smallest cog. He asked me to ride up and down the street and immediately noticed that the link used to connect the chain was upside down. Mindblown! From then on he was Dr. Bike in my books. Eventually, I got a complete overhaul on the bike with a new headtube, brake pads, and discs, they aligned everything as it should, put black straps on, new bar tape, and tended to every detail to make my Stooge the best it could be. Today I dropped in to say a final goodby and again, there was a bit of a moment, for me at least. He said that if I happen to pass through Skive again, I'm always welcome.
My last friend was a slow connection. After every ride, I ended up in town looking for the best espresso. I tried a few places and had settled on a shop where slowly but surely the employees tried to make a cup to my pleasing. It wasn't going well. Then one day when I was on the hunt for some local beers, I found a place run by a man that must have thought ... "I enjoy the good things in life, and perhaps I should just set up a store to sell the things I like". Søegaards Vinhus has a fantastic selection of local beers, wine and liquors, pipes, tobacco, cigars, tea, coffee, and cheese. On that visit, I noticed that he also had a mid-sized espresso maker in the corner. I ordered a double, which in his shop was a quadruple. But it was an instant match. Every morning from then on, I would end my rides there for the best cup of espresso in Skive. We didn't interact as much though as my other friends. I felt more of a customer passing through even though this was the place I frequented the most. I managed to communicate mostly in Danish. Again, this morning I'd run out of coffee at home and didn't want to buy another pack for just a couple of days. So I went in for my final cup, mentioned that this would be it. The last one, and perhaps there was a hint of a moment or perhaps it was just me. But we said our farewells and I walked down the shopping street one last time.
Where am I going with all this rambling?
After what we have been through recently with all the distancing and what not. As well as the development in recent years where capitalism has butchered local merchants to a large extent. I feel we should reflect and backtrack.
Find your local passionate merchant and connect, spend your money locally with passionate people. Human connection is priceless. We all deserve more of those moments in our lives. It's worth the extra cost.
Jeff Bezos will never have a moment with you.